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Opening Arguments

The gap

Suppose this will be used by opponents of school choice to argue that the voucher program is a bad idea?

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Private Indiana schools that accepted students from low- to middle-income families using state-funded vouchers last year experienced a fall in their passing rates on the state's ISTEP test this year, a newspaper's analysis of test scores shows.

The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne analyzed the test scores of 189 private schools with voucher students that administered the statewide test and had 2011 data for comparison. The newspaper reported ( ) Monday that its analysis showed those schools' passing rate for both math and English fell to 85 percent this year, down from 86 percent the year before.

At the same time, the state's public schools' scores rose slightly, with about 71 percent of students passing both the English and math portions of the test this year, up from about 70 percent last year. Those scores mark an 8 percent gain since the 2008-09 school year.

Of course those numbers don't show any such thing. The premise of the voucher program is that public education will get better if it has to compete for students, not that students will instanly improve their first year out of a public school. If we believe that private schools in general provide a better education than public schools, then it's not surprising at all that private school scores might drop the first year. And look at those final numbers: 85 percent passing rate for private, 71 percent for public. That's still quite the gap.